I had a tense week with the internet a few weeks ago. I posted a tweet calling out a conference I was invited to for only having male speakers:
I was invited to attend a conference with a super cool topic but all-male speakers. I think it's important to speak up, so I sent the organizers an email. Here's the gist of my email, in case it can be helpful to others considering speaking up in this way. #womeninSTEM pic.twitter.com/tHvoKfqosO— Claire Duvallet (@cduvallet) September 9, 2018
It got a lot of attention (for a Tweeter like me) - 35 retweets and 179 likes. Usually, I get excited for Twitter notifications, but not that week. The more the numbers crept up, the more I worried that this would become my most popular tweet, overtaking the tweet announcing my meta-analysis paper:
The meta-analysis is out in @NatureComms! We found that diseases are characterized by consistent types of microbial community shifts, and that lots of bacteria respond non-specifically to multiple diseases. @gibbological @ThomasGurry @ejalm @rafalab https://t.co/XJxmxApgXv— Claire Duvallet (@cduvallet) December 5, 2017
Why did each new like and retweet make my stomach sink a little lower? Because if we’re in a professional space, I want to be known for my work first. I want to be a person who brings her whole self to work, who uses her work to lift others up, and also who advocates for others along the way. I don’t want a headline written about me to minimize my professional achievements in order to focus on the “other stuff”, especially right as it hails others for their achievements in the traditional merit systems:
OFFENSIVE HEADLINE: Joan Steitz won the @LaskerFDN award for groundbreaking work in RNA biology (NOT for her valuable advocacy) #WomeninSTEM— Leslie Vosshall (@pollyp1) September 11, 2018
"Lasker Awards Given for ... Promoting Women in Science" https://t.co/M65fM7EcRf
If the award is for science and I win it, talk about my science. If the award is for anything and I win it and you focus on other people’s science, talk about my science. The systems we live and work in do not incentivize or reward advocacy - do not then highlight it above the ways in which I succeed professionally. Reward it by changing the system. Change the system such that people who do not lift others up through their work don’t win awards. Don’t praise my advocacy without even mentioning that if I were only an advocate and not also successful according to traditional metrics, you’d never give me the time of day. And if I’m wrong, and diversity and equity truly aren’t just PR for your award - then don’t give me an award. Change the system.
If the award is for science, talk about my science.